User experience is, without doubt, one of the most critical components of the relationship between a business and its customers. This encompasses direct interactions, but also digital ones. Ultimately, every touchpoint counts, whether it’s face to face, on the phone or via a website or app. By building a good customer experience into every product and solution, you have an opportunity to build loyalty and trust, and this is critical for long-term business success. When it comes to any digital development project, user experience (UX) should be a clear priority from the outset.
What is User Experience Design?
User experience (UX) design is a discipline that aims to provide users with exactly what they need, when they need it. It is less about the aesthetics of a product and more about the psychology of the users. In short, it is the process of creating a meaningful and relevant experience for all users.
User experience design is fundamentally about understanding your target users. This means their goals, what they might find difficult and what they would like to achieve. Only once you have a full understanding of the user can you start to design solutions that meet those needs. And it is an all-encompassing process that needs to be considered at every stage of the development lifecycle.
How Customer Expectations Have Changed
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there has been a huge shift in the way employees and customers interact with each other. The pandemic has highlighted how social we are and our desire for tactile interactions. To adapt to the new normal, businesses have had to find new ways to create these personalised interactions with customers. A process of innovating and iterating has been fundamental, but what has been at its core has been user experience.
In the past, businesses had multiple touchpoints to interact with customers. However, the pandemic has permanently altered some consumer habits and how their needs are met. Websites and apps are now where connection and customer service happen, which means that if you are developing a digital product, it needs to put customer experience first now more than ever. Products and services need to be clear, convenient, responsive and efficient, and they also need to consider accessibility and flexibility. Poor user experience is no longer an option.
User experience is often incorrectly linked with graphic design, branding and eye catching visuals. However, user experience is actually about creating mutually beneficial experiences. It’s about carefully understanding the needs, challenges and motivations of users and delivering a product that meets those needs.
The Benefits of UX Design
Creating a lasting impression is vital if you are to meet your business goals and objectives, which makes user experience a differentiating factor. User experience encompasses design, functionality, navigation and adaptability. And, each of these areas needs to be interconnected to create a positive experience. Get it right, and you can realise several business benefits:
- Improved Retention – a poor user experience can lead your customers to engage with your competitors. When customers leave, they take recurring revenue with them and you then have to try to acquire new customers.
- Increased Loyalty – the more satisfying the UX, the more chances of customers being loyal or even becoming brand advocates
- Lower Costs – if your customers can see the path to value for themselves, you will spend less time helping them through support tickets or delivering customer service. Every user that isn’t relying on resources can save your business money.
- Better Customers – by putting users first, you are more likely to attract the very users that you have designed your product for you. This theory comes from the Pareto Principle; your best customers may well account for 80% of your profits.
- Enhanced Revenue – users will be willing to pay more for an enhanced experience, which can help you gain a competitive advantage. With a larger pool of loyal customers, improved retention and less support required, you will see a much greater return on investment.
How You Can Prioritise UX Design
Prioritising UX design means putting the user at the centre of everything you do. It is a complete shift in mindset. Instead of creating something you think your users will like, you first find out what their core problems are. From that point, you are in a much stronger position to create the solution they need. To prioritise UX design, you will need to:
- Prepare to Iterate – user-centred design requires continual iteration as designers evaluate problems, learn from users, explore solutions and then test whether they work. To create a product or solution that really solves a problem, you need a thorough understanding of user needs, behaviours and challenges. Be prepared to continually make adjustments to ensure these needs are met.
- Invest in Experience – if you are going to get UX design right, you need the best possible team on your side. After all, both businesses and consumers expect intuitive UX and seamless experiences. In-house teams don’t always have the specialised UX skills you require. Make sure you are able to invest in an experienced team to get it right and not be sidelined by corporate goals.
- Communicate Throughout – whether your users are employees or customers, understanding them should be at the heart of every project or solution, and that starts with great communication. Include your users at every stage of the development lifecycle to ensure their needs are met and that your product delivers.
Is UX Design a Priority for Your Business?
UX isn’t a feature; it’s how users experience the features of your app or software. And, while customers might not come to you for user experience, it’s what makes them stay. If a software solution is difficult to use, it won’t matter whether it has an attractive price point and great features. User experience should be the core of every design project, which means it should be a priority for every business. Get it right, and UX design can deliver some amazing improvements in key metrics from revenue to retention.